The Legendary Victoria Williams, A Joshua Tree Treasure

By Lisa Morgan

Meeting Victoria Williams at FurstWurld, a breathtaking artist compound and performance venue at the foot of Joshua Tree National Park, was a moment I’ll never forget. Friends were gathered for a “Sunday Sunset Music Showcase.” It was less than an hour before the first performance was scheduled. The barbeque was being tended to, delivering delicious aromas and Carne Asada by Jorge Carillo, from the band, 3rd Ear Experience. The sun was setting right on schedule, casting a warm amber glow on the clouds that were clearing after a light rain. It couldn’t get any more magical, I thought. And then it did. Floating in like a happy little lark in a white cotton dress, Victoria danced into the venue. I had only known her through her records and videos, but I knew her voice before I even set eyes on her. She was there to be with friends, unaware that we were planning a performance. When she agreed to join the lineup for a few songs, the evening turned into a dream. We were all enchanted with her unique, quirky, human grace. Born to make a very special kind of music, when she took the stage, we were spellbound.

Running into her, months later, at the front of a large crowd at Stagecoach (the country music version of Coachella), we met again. We were both waiting for Emmylou Harris to come on stage. Emmylou had invited Victoria, giving her a wristband that granted her backstage access. But Victoria explained, “I want to watch my friend from here, and just, you know, take it all in.” Studying her face on occasion, after Emmylou came on stage, there was nothing but love, respect, pride, and appreciation beaming from an intent listener.

A quick search on the oracle known as, “Google,” and you can learn a lot about Williams’ early years and career. She shares openly about the fear she dealt with when she felt the effects of MS on stage, opening for Neil Young, prior to being diagnosed. She fought for her recovery so she could walk on her own and play guitar again. The young girl who determinedly decided she didn’t like cheerleading or anyone who got pleasure being mean to people after being bullied, still thrives all these years later, even on the heels of a global pandemic. Unjaded, open, and healthier than most, she continues to grow her experience with music and celebrate it among friends.  Williams has always traveled by her own compass and sense of “true north.” With childlike fearlessness, she has survived things others have not, and the Joshua Tree community loves her for it.

Music has found its home in Williams since she was a child, an open channel that allowed it to flow through her at will. She has referred to it as “singing in tongues.” Singing was like breathing for her. Her gift was recognized early, though its origins were discovered almost accidentally. I asked her if there was a family member that shared her love and aptitude for music, and if her family was supportive in those early years. “I remember my dad always sang around the house,” she answered. “Later, I discovered his clarinet in a case covered in stickers from different towns. It was tucked away in my grandmother’s attic. It seems he gave up any musical aspirations to raise our family. When I began singing around the house, my mother always encouraged me.”

When asked about her experience during the global pandemic, she shared, “I received a letter from a man in November of 2019 foretelling of this entire epidemic, and the 5G that was going to be sneaked in during it. He even mentioned Gates having something to do with it. He also said to send the email to people as it was soon to be taken off the web. I didn’t send it but to a few. My housemate said it was just a conspiracy, and it was taken off. But how can we stop? Why must everything be faster? It’s always been a dream of mine to let the earth have a break from the pollutants being thrust upon it, and people need a break! Wasn’t it wonderful how the sky turned so blue without cars running?”

“Two dear friends of mine died In April and March of 2020,” she continued. “The virus got them. I pray they are in a good place. Now we’re getting to the end of 2021, and it does seem like fear is being used to control. Masks are the safe way to travel. I may go back to Louisiana for Thanksgiving. I booked flights, but I talked to my doctor today. He says many of his patients have caught Covid when they flew. I may just stay put. Lost my mother in September. I love her.”

“How has your heart and mind coped and grown through all of this,” I asked?

Victoria: “Meditation helps to do every day. And walking. Singing. Praying. Drawing. Grateful for Jesus and the people and animals.”

“How are you dealing and coping with MS these days? Any suggestions for others?”

Victoria: “My hands are numb right now. I drink a lot of water. Stay away from fried food. Meditation, as I said earlier, is critical. Breathing. Stretching.”

“As far as I could research, your last recording was in 2019 with Danny Frankel, but it’s been a while since you’ve recorded a solo album. Will you be recording new originals any time soon?”

Victoria: “It seems that when it comes upon me, I make up songs. I did this morning, but I didn’t record it. If someone asks me to, I will record. Danny asked me to, and we did.”

“What do you love most about this community that is so very far from Louisiana? What drew you here in the first place?”

Victoria: “When I came to California, the absence of humidity in the air was thrilling. But when I got MS, the traffic jams in Los Angeles, and pollution were too much. I came here long ago to get out of the busy city. Now it seems the city has come here. But it’s the same in Shreveport. It has grown. I suppose there are many more people everywhere.”

Victoria will be performing with The Clouds, December 4th in Joshua Tree a the Quema Del Diablo Art and Music Festival. She and the large line up of fellow musicians are all contributing to benefit the programs offered by the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. Tickets are on sale now at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/quema-del-diablo-tickets

Photo of Victoria waving through glass by Beth Herzhaft. www.herzco.com

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